Anatomy of a photo: yellowlegs


Yellowlegs relaxing in Pickleweed

These Yellowlegs moved into a restored wetland near where I live. (Details of the wetland restoration can be read at Giacomini Wetlands: History and Photos.) They are a very good sign, because they would only be there if there were enough invertebrates in the new mudflats to be feeding on. Slowly the area is becoming a more and more naturalized tidal wetland, and each new species of shorebird that shows up is like a badge of honor.

Yellowlegs are a fun bird to watch as they go about their business of feeding in the wetlands. Not as social as the Godwits or Willits, they are still a fairly gregarious bird, marching about and plunging their long bills into the mud, ferreting out tidbits where they can. More rarely I see them at rest, like in these pictures. While I love action shots of birds feeding or flying, it can also be fun to show their other side, their quiet restful side. We all have one, and while our actions speak for who we are, so to does how we take our rest.

The nuts and bolts. This photo was trickier to take because of the time of day. It was about 11:30 in the morning so the sun was overhead. I had to work my kayak around so that the sun was slightly behind me. (It was so high above me it was hard to place behind me.) This meant that from my very initial approach on these birds I had to always keep the sun at my back. If I had approached them from any other direction, their would have been shadows on their faces and I would not have been able to get that glint of light in the eye (which can really make or break a picture sometimes. Having that spark there, can really add some life to the subject.) While I could have photoshopped that glint in, I’ve never had to resort to that yet, and don’t know that I ever will.

The lens was a 300mm with a 1.4x converter to give me a total lens length of 420mm. The shots were taken handheld since I was kayaking and don’t like to use a tripod on a kayak. I wanted a fastish shutter speed of 1/640th to freeze any action and negate any camera shake, while maintaining a decent depth of field with an aperture of f/9.9 (this way all of the bird is in focus, but not much beyond the bird). To get the proper exposure with these settings I set my ISO to 320.

Happy shooting

I had to include at least one photo to show why its called a Yellowlegs

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, kayak photography, nature photography, photography, wildlife photography, yellowlegs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Anatomy of a photo: yellowlegs

  1. john granatir says:

    yes they are fun to watch. grayish birds with bright yellow legs. I saw some last weekend beside some cow ponds out by the point.

  2. eremophila says:

    A really nicely informative post, thank you!

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